Content optimisation is a key pillar of SEO that continues to evolve as search engines interact with language in increasingly interesting ways.
In this interview, we spoke to Liv Day, SEO account manager at Honeycomb Search, the SEO service from startup accelerator Twinkl Hive. Liv came into SEO from a background in linguistics and copywriting, which made her the perfect person to talk through this topic with us!
We covered topics such as finding content opportunities, understanding what kinds of changes are likely to make a difference, and addressing challenging topics where the information currently in search results is different to what your business is trying to say.
If you want to hear more from Liv, you can find her on Twitter at @oliviaday__ (with two underscores). Twitter is also the best place to find the rest of the RankUp team: Liv-Mae (@seoliviamae), Ben (@BenJGarry) and Edd (@EddJTW).
Liv: I came out of uni a couple of years ago, with not a lot of ideas about what I wanted to do. I’d just finished a degree in linguistics, so half of that was super creative, with lots of writing, and the other half was research-based and very data-driven.
I had a vague idea that I wanted to combine those sides into a career and started off in marketing, where I got exposed to SEO. I moved on to in-house copywriting, but I wanted to see a little bit more of the strategic side. Eventually, I found myself in account management, which ties up all the things I like about SEO quite nicely.
Where do you start with content optimisation?
Liv: I always start in the same place that most people do, which is with a SERP (search engine results page) analysis. Often, you’ll have a gut instinct of what kind of content you’d want to create, but sometimes Google will throw you a curveball, or you might have missed something.
You can do this with a Google search, but there are also some great tools out there. I love Thruuu, which gives you all the information you need about URLs, including average word count, types of content, the h1 and h2s of every single page. I love that kind of analysis tool, because it helps me to obe confident about the kind of content that I’m creating, and I find it great for inspiration.
What’s your process for optimising content?
Liv: This varies depending on what freedom I’ve been given and what sort of content the site already has. If a client has given me a really open-ended brief, I might start by looking at Search Console to see which pages aren’t meeting their full potential. This might be URLs on the second page of Google, for example.
I’ll always try to work with the content that I’ve already got, but I’m guilty of just taking a sledgehammer to content and starting again. I think it’s the copywriter in me! I always prefer reading and editing my own work. But, if I’m trying hard not to, I’ll focus on the structure first – making sure that there’s a logical order to the subheadings and using tools like Answer the Public to work out exactly how to meet all of the user’s needs.
From there, I’d say it’s just about writing content that you would want to read as a user – that’s the most important thing to stick with.
How do you work out where to focus when a big keyword opportunity comes up?
Liv: Sometimes you have to pivot your original strategy to target massive opportunities that pop up, but nine times out of ten it will pay off. If the opportunity is particularly time sensitive, I’ll drop whatever I’m doing – within reason – to target it.
As an example, we have an education client. When Squid Game came out last year, we decided that we wanted to create some content to target its suitability for children, and we went all in straight away. Within days, we were ranking for hundreds of keywords in the top three on Google. I think this was due to the fact that we targeted it so quickly.
In general, it’s important to trust your instincts if you think the opportunity is going to be fruitful. As another example, we had a client in the pensions industry and created an entire online help centre containing pretty much every pension-related query anyone has ever asked ever!
Rather than just making one or two blogs, we went all in and became the place to go for pension-related advice. It became a massive driver of traffic to the website and ended up being really successful.
Keeping content up to date
Liv: People underestimate how helpful it is to keep updating content regularly. Just because something performed well six months ago, doesn’t mean it’s perfect now. There’s a tendency to just leave things that are doing well and not touch them, but there are always things you can do to make content more relevant and perform better. Don’t be scared to change things and update it.
Ben: This is also something that we’re trying to do more [at Impression]. Changing search intent is such a massive factor to consider now – we had Rejoice Ojiaku speaking about this on the podcast a few weeks ago, too. It’s something that you need to keep an eye on.
Liv: Definitely, and generally, I will make a note of pages that are performing well and keep track of their traffic and rankings. If it gets to a point where they start to drop, I will try to think what I can change to make them more relevant and bring the traffic back, because if you’ve done it once, you can do it again.
Blending client branding with search demand
Ben: How do you balance the opportunities that you find and the results that you see with the desires of your clients, who might want to see specific things ranking for their target keywords?
For example, most of us in the industry have probably come across a client or stakeholder who wants to talk about a product or service in a different way to the results that Google wants to return for that type of thing, like a branded product name that doesn’t match with how people search for items in that category.
Liv: The key with this is about doing your research and sticking to the data. If a client really wants to target a keyword in a particular way, you can bring them the data and suggest alternatives. Most clients will understand that there’s no point in targeting a keyword that no one’s going to search.
Keyword research is important because you might think your audience is searching for one thing, but when you do the research you realise that they’re actually looking for it in a completely different way.
For example, I’ve got a client who produces nootropic drinks – brain boosting drinks with superfoods. Originally, we thought we’d target keywords relating to nootropics, but pretty quickly we realised that no one is searching for that because it’s a brand new market, and people simply don’t know what it is yet.
Instead, we had to widen the funnel and go for keywords like ‘brain boosting drinks’ or ‘drinks for focus’ that capture people slightly higher up the funnel. These are users who have got a definite problem, but they don’t know if a solution exists yet and are using Google to scope it out.
To find these keywords, we did a bit of research among their customer base to ask them what they love about the product and how they would describe it to someone else. Once you’ve got that base, you can broaden it out with more traditional keyword research through tools like Semrush.
Listen to the episode for more!
We don’t have the space to include everything that Liv covered in her interview – there was a whole second section on linguistics and SEO that we haven’t been able to touch on here! To hear everything that she had to say, listen to the podcast via the player on this page, or on your app of choice.
If you’re interested in being a guest on the show, please reach out to us on Twitter or via email.